Intel's Nehalem simply sizzles
In a range of tests, the new quad-core Xeon processor shows huuuuge performance gainsFollow @infoworld
One of these new features is dubbed Turbo mode. You might recall the days of Intel 8088 CPUs running at either 8MHz or 16MHz if the "Turbo" switch was enabled. This isn't quite the same thing. The Turbo feature in Nehalem allows the CPU cores to burst to higher clock rates if load requires. Turbo adds what Intel calls "bins" that represent a boost of 133MHz to each core, allowing certain cores to essentially overclock themselves on an as-needed basis.
Turbo sounds slightly gimmicky, but it can assist in single- and lightly threaded workloads, as it can only be utilized on a subset of physical cores. For instance, one or two cores might be able to allocate three additional bins, but several threads running concurrently might only be able to access a single bin on each of the four cores. All of this is dependent on the thermal and power health of the CPU at the time and is dynamically adjusted.
All of these features add up to a significant performance boost. How significant? In many of my tests, Nehalem runs roughly twice as fast as Intel Xeon 5300-based platforms, and 50 percent faster than Intel Xeon 5400-based systems in single-threaded operations. It's fast.
For example, in preliminary testing I used an HP ProLiant DL580 with four quad-core Intel Xeon X7350 CPUs running at 2.93GHz per core as a baseline. The Nehalem system was running two quad-core Intel Xeon W5580 CPUs at 3.2GHz per core with HyperThreading enabled.
The tests I ran were mostly single-threaded with the exception of the MySQL InnoDB database performance tests. However, the single-threaded tests were run in batches of 16 simultaneous tasks -- thus, each test pass comprised 16 identical processes for each test scenario. The tests included LAME audio encoding, gzip and bzip2 compression, and MD5 sum tests of large files. Note that the X7350 system had 16 physical cores and the Nehalem test system had only eight, represented as 16 virtual processors via HyperThreading.
Averaged across all tests, the Nehalem system was roughly 60 percent faster than the X7350-based server. For instance, the time required for the X7350 system to encode 16 identical 200MB WAV files to MP3 at 224Kbps was 77 seconds. The Nehalem system completed the task in 40 seconds. The gzip tests showed the X7350 compressing the 16 resulting MP3 files in 6 seconds, while the Nehalem system completed the task in 2 seconds. For a single-thread test, I converted a 27MB MPEG-4 file to FLV (Flash Video) with MEncoder. The X7350 took 43 seconds at roughly 100 frames per second; the Nehalem took 27 seconds at roughly 163 frames per second.
The MySQL tests I ran were based on InnoDB using the mysql-bench test suite. This test runs a large number of concurrent database operations, including Select, Delete, Update, Insert, and so forth. The X7350 system completed all three tests in a total of 833 seconds, while the Nehalem system finished in 713 seconds.
More per core
Without a doubt, these numbers are hugely impressive, even if they are measured against a Tigertown-era chip. A dual-socket Nehalem system handily beats a four-socket X7350 system across the board. And the tests were run with 16 concurrent single-threaded processes, so while the X7350 used one physical core per process, the Nehalem, using HyperThreading, ran two processes per physical core.